Trump v NFL
October 9, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence flew from Las Vegas to Indianapolis for Sunday afternoon's game between the Colts and San Francisco 49ers, an event that was supposed to be focused on former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, whose number was being retired. Instead, Pence and his wife, second lady Karen Pence, left after the national anthem, during which Colts players linked arms and some 49ers kneeled, part of a yearlong protest against racism and police brutality that was recently amplified by President Trump. Most observersreportedly including those inside the West Wing — viewed Pence's NFL protest as a transparent play to breathe new life into Trump's feud with NFL players.

Pence, after bizarrely posting a photo of himself and his wife at a 2014 Colts game, tweeted that he left Sunday's game "because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem." Trump tweeted that he had asked Pence "to leave stadium if any players kneeled." The pool reporters assigned to Pence were told to wait in the van because the vice president would likely leave early; also, Pence was scheduled to be at a fundraiser in Los Angeles on Sunday evening, the first of four during a three-day swing through the Golden State. Among those skeptical of Pence's intentions was 49ers safety Eric Reid, who said "this looks like a PR stunt to me."

If so, it was an expensive stunt. The tab for flying Air Force Two to Indianapolis and back from the West Coast was at least $250,000, The Washington Post calculates, and then there are the costs of Secret Service advance work and local police and other emergency responders working Sunday shifts to ensure Pence's safety in Indianapolis. If the Pences had wanted to honor Manning, it would have been cheaper and more precious to just invite him to dinner at the Naval Observatory, their government-issued mansion. Peter Weber

September 26, 2017

For President Trump's base, the president's feud with the National Football League is "the red meat of all red meat," Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said on Monday afternoon, but they're wrong that the NFL players who kneel during the national anthem are protesting the flag. "They're upset about racial injustice and they're upset about the things that the president has said," he added, suggesting that Trump is using the fight to distract his base from the failure of the ObamaCare repeal effort and the fact that "North Korea's the biggest mess since the Cold War."

Smith was talking with Politico congressional reporter Rachael Bade, who said one Republican had just told her that Trump amplifying the protests is not helpful. "It's an ugly dispute right now," she said. "People in general don't like it when folks protest the national anthem." "Of course, they're not protesting the national anthem," Smith cut in. "That's not what they're doing. You know, we're complicit," he added, chuckling. Bade reverted to Trump's argument that the players were protesting the flag, but said: "It has become about more than just the flag, honestly, because the folks feel like the president is bullying black football players after the Charlottesville controversy, just a few weeks later. So, it's just bad all around for Republicans, we can say that."

Shep Smith correcting a Politico reporter on Fox News about what NFL players are protesting is one strange wrinkle in Trump's ongoing fight. A few hours later, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — one of only two NFL owners who did not release a statement supporting his players or criticizing Trump after Trump urged owners to fire "son of a bitch" protesters — had another: he took to the field with his team before the Cowboys-Cardinals game on Monday night, and locked arms with them then knelt before standing for the national anthem. Like the Cowboys, the Cardinals also linked arms during the anthem.

Some parts of the crowd in Arizona booed Jones and the Cowboys kneeling before the anthem, a gesture meant to unify both sides. Peter Weber

September 25, 2017

Several NASCAR team owners responded to NFL protests over the weekend by saying they would not tolerate their own members kneeling during the national anthem, a policy President Trump praised Monday morning:

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has been voted NASCAR's Most Popular Driver a record 14 consecutive times, apparently didn't agree with NASCAR's stance. He tweeted his disapproval on Monday:

Earnhardt is apparently of the minority opinion, though. No drivers protested during the national anthem on Sunday before the race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, The Associated Press reports.

Football players like Colin Kaepernick, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, have declined to stand for the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice in America. While more than 60 percent of NFL players are black, NASCAR has had just four black drivers in cup history, ABC News Radio's Brad Mielke reports.

Richard Childress, who was the owner of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s father's team, said that kneeling during the national anthem would "get you a ride on a Greyhound bus."

"Anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in," Childress said. "So many people gave their lives for it. This is America." Jeva Lange

September 25, 2017

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady announced Monday that he "certainly" disagrees with President Trump, who spent the weekend criticizing NFL players who kneel to protest police brutality during the national anthem. "I certainly disagree with what he said. I thought it was just divisive," Brady told the hosts of Boston WEEI's Kirk & Callahan Show.

Brady, who linked arms with fellow Patriots during the national anthem on Sunday, added: "I just want to support my teammates. I am never one to say, 'Oh, that is wrong. That is right.' I do believe in what I believe in." Axios writes that Brady's words and actions matter because "Trump has called Brady a friend and described him as 'the BEST quarterback.'"

The Associated Press counted more than 200 players who knelt or sat during the national anthem in solidarity against Trump, who had urged owners on Friday to fire "son of a bitch" players who declined to stand.

Still, Brady insisted that "the one thing about football is it brings so many guys together — guys you would never have the opportunity to be around. Whether it was in college, and all the way into the pros. We're all different, we're all unique. That is what makes us all special." Read more at WEEI, or listen to the audio below. Jeva Lange

September 25, 2017

Players in all 14 of Sunday's National Football League games and most NFL team owners registered their objections Sunday to President Trump's two days of comments and tweets about NFL players who protest racism and police violence during the pregame national anthem. Dozens of players knelt but virtually all of them locked arms during the national anthem in solidarity against Trump's comments in Alabama on Friday night that owners should fire "son of a bitch" players who declined to stand during the anthem. At least three owners joined their teams on the field during the anthem, two singers took a knee, and the Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, and all but one Pittsburgh Steeler stayed in their locker rooms until after the anthem was finished.

In a long series of tweets, Trump portrayed the protests begun by unsigned former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as against the American flag, but even NFL players, coaches, and commentators who disagree with kneeling during the anthem — and many of them do — recognized the protests as about being against racial injustice and the mistreatment of minorities. On Fox Sports, for example, Terry Bradshaw said the players were exercising their constitutional rights, adding, "not sure if our president understands those rights, that every American has the right to speak out and also to protest."

Sunday's displays of protest were an unprecedented rebuke and show of solidarity, in a league with enforced conformity and short contracts, though Trump seemed fine with one form of protest against him.

Some of the fans booed the players who knelt on Sunday. But all but two team owners — Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson — issued statements supporting their players or criticizing Trump. Most surprisingly, Patriots owner Bob Kraft, a friend of Trump's and generous political donor, said he was "deeply disappointed" by Trump's comments. Miami Dophins safety Michael Thomas had a more personal response. Peter Weber

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